First, I owe you disclosure of my bias: I love shop-at-home selling as a strategy. I started in this great business selling fabrics to home sewers and gave them free sample books. I wanted them to go into customers’ homes to make their rooms beautiful and make their lives happier. I sold to owners of drapery specialty shops like Beauti-Pleat and Spring Crest who loved to give friendly, helpful service in customers’ homes.
I joined Aero Drapery to work with the father of the custom drapery
shop-at-home business Jesse Cox in Indianapolis, IN. Jesse showed
Les Finkelstein (Sunshine Drapery, St. Louis, MO—see D&WC,
June 1995, page 30) how to do it, and Les showed Bruce Heyman (Fabricland
Interiors, Nassaus, NJ—see D&WC, December 2001, page 24)
how to do it, and other leaders like Carl Movrich (Drapery Connection,
Chicago, IL) learned along the way. All of them are multi-million-dollar
drapery and window coverings businesses that learned to embrace shop-at-home
as a business strategy. Doing it correctly, they have set records
in sales and profits for our industry.
And, of course, I founded a shop-at-home business called Decorating
Den that grew to more than 1,000 franchise owners and decorators by
the time I sold it to the present owners. It was the first window
coverings business to carry a full complement of samples to customers’
homes and to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars per sales consultant—all
without a retail store.
No strategy in our industry has matched the productivity per person
and low overhead cost that I introduced over 30 years ago. Today,
Budget Blinds (see D&WC, April 2003, page 30) and others apply
this same strategy and achieve even more spectacular results. So,
yes, I have a bias for shop-at-home.
WHAT IS A SHOP-AT HOME-STRATEGY?
A lot of window coverings retailers and decorators sell products in
customers’ homes as a part of their businesses. But there is
a giant difference between being willing to do it and embracing it
as a foundational philosophy of business.
Willingness is when a large business wants customers to come to the
store first to see its fabulous inventory. Or when a small business
or decorator charges a fee so they don’t “waste time”
with unqualified prospects. In contrast, embracing the strategy is
when you can’t wait to get into the customer’s home to make
a friend and lay a foundation to sell her for years . . . and to get
referrals from her friends.
Let’s make a comparison chart to see the differences. I can’t
begin to cover all the points in this brief column. But I am inspired
to start the process here, and I will write a detailed report soon.
See information below to order your copy. Let’s call it “Why
your customers love Shop-at-Home, and so should you.”
EVERYONE AGREES WITH THE CONCEPT, NOT THE EXECUTION
Interestingly, a beginning point of agreement is shared by everyone
in our industry. I have never met a business owner who disagrees with
this statement: “A sale made in the home is a better sale, a
larger sale, a higher profit sale and results in more repeat and referral
Few would dispute that, yet many continue to look at an in-home sale
as an intrusion to operations rather than their method of operation.
Let’s start with advertising messages and move on to the selling
presentation itself. This is only the beginning, but it will give
you a flavor of the difference.
The chart that accompanies this article will give you the idea. This
literally is the tip of the iceberg. Shop-at-home is a fabulous strategy.
Try to feel the difference: Shop-at-home strategy is when the purpose
of the home visit is to get to know the homeowner on a personal level
to build a foundation for a lifetime of repeat sales. Shop-at-home
tolerance is when the purpose of the home call is to take measurements,
give estimates and avoid problems.
LIFETIME VALUE OF A CUSTOMER
Recent soundings with experienced retailers convince me that the lifetime
value of each customer you sell is, on average, from $10,000 to $20,000
including repeat purchases and referrals over the years. Tolerating
an in-home appointment may make a sale today, but it is not the stuff
that a future is made of. Without building a foundation for future
call-backs and referrals you miss the power of the entire strategy.
Shop-at-home is not simply a way to sell, it is a way to make friends,
build relationships, assure future sales for additional rooms and,
as the customers grow in income, to share in their prosperity as they
buy their next homes or vacation homes. It is a way to do something
so special at the window that all her friends will ask, “Who
did your window treatments? They’re lovely!”
Business owners and sales consultants need to realize that something
deep in a person’s psyche is yearning to be different, unique
and recognized for her good taste and a beautiful home. If you don’t
understand that, you can’t fathom the power of the shop-at-home
Think about it! You can do it. There is a fabulous opportunity to
beat your competitor, to sell more than ever before, to enjoy higher
margins on today’s sale and to benefit by a lifetime of repeat
and referral sales. It is an opportunity waiting for you to grab it
article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with
sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings
businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales
or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar
business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase
your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den
Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap
Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert in window coverings marketing,
sales systems and sales management through his company, custEmers.com.
Questions and comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) 333-8981.
For a report, “Why your customers love shop-at-home, and so should
you,”send a request with your business name and address to sah@custEmers.com